The Bog:
sphagnum moss, dark water, and politics
Monday, November 20, 2006
Lots More Kathryn From The Corner

So, I'm still trying to figure out Kathryn Jean Lopez's argument, apropos of the appointment of anti-contraception anti-abortion oxytocin-obsessed Eric Keroack to oversee the $280 million reproductive health Office of Population Affairs (new motto: 1.8 unwanted pregnancies prevented a year = 1.8 million missed opportunities for forced childbearing. Yeah, it's a little clunky, but I'm sure they're working on it). To recap:
Lopez asks:Does Anyone Really Disagree with This?
A Bush administration HHS nominee is getting grief for his involvement with a pregnancy center that believes: "that the crass commercialization and distribution of birth control is demeaning to women, degrading of human sexuality and adverse to human health and happiness."

Passing out contraception without any deeper context or conversation is degrading and disrespectful — to men and women. Tell me I'm crazy.
Well, without context it does sound pretty crazy, and I'm not familiar enough with anti-contraception, anti-women's reproductive autonomy, pro-natalist ideology - fringe US Catholic, fringe Protestant, or fringe-fringe We Need More White Babies!! versions - to come up with it myself, so I went looking around the Corner for more.

Fellow Cornerite John Podheretz thought that calling contraception demeaning to grown-up woman was pretty crazy, so Kathryn replied
But the fact is one does not have to be an opponent of contraception to think that we have a contraceptive mentality in our culture that is in fact demeaning. Where we give kids condoms instead of teaching them why waiting would be of some value — for a lot more reasons than not getting pregnant.
Well, I'm still a little fuzzy what a "contraceptive mentality" is, not being tuned into the theocon dogwhistles - is it connected to the "culture of death"? Of course, comprehensive sex ed. both teaches adolescents about condoms and why waiting, for a while at least, might be a good idea. One happy side effect is that if they don't wait, those kids, not being fed abstinence-only fibs, are actually informed about ways to reduce the risks of pregnancy and STDs. Y'know, one interesting tune I have been picking up in anti-contraception discourse is that maybe teen pregnancy isn't so bad - compared to contraception.

Anyway, I'm skipping over an old piece of hers that she tenatively links to, How Birth Control Changed America For the Worst - maybe more later, but if you read it, I'd advise How the Pro-choice Movement Saved America to cleanse your palate. Almost mirror images - shorter Lopez: If they think they can avoid the consequences, people will run around having sex! And why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free - or have it refrigerated for whenever you need it!!). Next up, she provides a quick emphasis:
A contraceptive mentality is demeaning to women and men. It's dehumanizing something that's essentially all about life. Dehumanizing human sexuality is depressingly perverse and at the root of a whole lot of heartache.
Ah. And I suppose in a way I agree. Sex is essentially all about life. Sometimes it's about the wonder and worry of making new life. Sometimes it's just about celebrating life, with the one you love - or the one you're with, but to be honest I rather prefer the former. And sometimes it's about both. And like a lot of life, from cars to cellphones, one should try to be decent, caring, and respectful to others. Dehumanizing human sexuality - for real - is at the root of a lot of heartache. Pity that for Lopez it seems just about making new life, and the only dehumanization worth really worrying about isn't, say, blessedly defeated laws that would have forced rape victims to bear their rapists' children, but any sort of sex that doesn't involve both a wedding ring and a new human-to-be.

Next Kathryn finds another old article she wrote about a Protestant couple talking just good sense:
The Torodes take the Word literally when it comes to the meaning of marriage: Remember, for instance, this: "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it" (Genesis 1:27-28). And this: "He answered and said, 'Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate'" (Matthew 19: 4-6).

Artificial contraception, the Torodes say, puts up a barrier that doesn't belong in a Christian marriage.

The Torodes write that "Respect for the one-flesh mystery of marriage gives us serious qualms about the use of contraception. To invoke St. Paul's analogy, would Christ ever withhold any part of himself from the Church, or sterilize his love?" As they understand it, "anything less than a true one-flesh union fails to represent the completely self-giving love of Christ for the Church. This is why we believe that when a husband and wife have serious reasons to avoid pregnancy, it's better to abstain for a time than to diminish the meaning and mystery of sex."
Now, I tend to think that on a certain level everyone has the right to my - wait, no, I mean their! - opinion. At the same time, such attitudes are trying to shape - in abstinence-only ed funding, in family planning misappointees - our wider society, which presumably makes them fair game for public mockery. And while my academic training makes me want to understand this, it's really hard not to start giggling, because in some ways this isn't worthy of even vestigial respect: it's theology at the level of a poorly written Christian romance novel.
Like the [previous] pope [wrote] extensively, the Torodes believe that contraception is not consistent with a "culture of life." [Ah-hah! - DS] But they believe that most pro-lifers haven't even thought through it. Both the Bible and Catholic thinkers, the Torodes contend, have much to teach couples about married life and, well, life — whether they're Catholic or not.
Evangelicals are known for engaging the culture. Contemporary Christian music, for example, often mimics the sound of "secular" music while adding Christian lyrics, as though the music conveys no message of its own. Problems arise when we begin engaging the culture and end up marrying it. [It's the gay marriage slippery slope! First you get man-on-dog, then you get men marrying box turtles, then you have evangelicals marrying their native culture! -DS]

Our culture tells us that sex is really about pleasure, not spousal unity and procreation. Thus, in order to stay culturally relevant, many Christians stress that it was God who designed sex to yield pleasure. From this legitimate starting point, however, some Christians end up elevating pleasure above the procreative and unitive aspects of sex. In so doing, they unconsciously buy into our culture's hedonistic pursuit of pleasure as an end in itself.
Now, mindless disregarding-of-others hedonism, as an all around approach to life, maybe not so good. And they're right to note that our culture stresses it (if they ever figure out why (no, not the "gay agenda"), there are a couple of issues the left and the theo-right might be able to talk about). But what we have here is a whole 'nother matter entirely. As tristero wrote this spring (that most titilating of seasons - and in early May, too!) about The War On Fucking:
Oh, about the title of this post. I originally was going to call it "The war on sex," but changed my mind because that simply isn't accurate. It is fucking the rightwing opposes. The ecstatic, transgressive, transcendent, life-affirming, overwhelmingly selfish and also ego-obliterating ecstasy that is sex.
As Amanda points out,
Selling the idea that you personally don’t deserve pleasure, you peon, is done by the church’s tacit acceptance of Natural Family Planning. NFP gives lie to the idea that the church is completely anti-contraception. NFP, after all, is a form of contraception. Proponents of NFP say they like that it’s “natural”, which implies all other forms of contraception involve hormones or changing your body in some way, which isn’t true at all of barrier methods. Where NFP is different than other forms of contraception, and why it’s the only acceptable method for the anti-choicers is that it’s the only one that demands that you sacrifice spontaneity and pleasure, because you can only have sex at appointed times. NFP is acceptable to anti-choicers because it’s anti-love and demands that lovers refrain from sexual pleasure and bonding, at least some of the time. It drives home the message that your body isn’t yours to share and enjoy as you see fit.

Which is funny because the official line of the anti-choice Catholics and now Protestants who are enamored of this anti-joy approach to sex is that their approach to sex is somehow more loving than those who use more reliable contraception. Of course, the word “love” is how they sell the philosophy that sex should be about domination, in this case male domination of women. . . .

The argument that a couple who is fucking without contraception are “giving” to each other is a straight-up argument that sex is about male domination. The man’s “gift” is to orgasm; the woman’s “gift” is to suffer one pregnancy after another. . . . The only way to convince people that treating a woman like an incubator is respect is to spread even more misogyny by arguing that women who fuck for pleasure are whores. And so the anti-choice view of “love” comes down to the idea that women are debased and that men are so elevated that women should treat getting pregnant again as a gift because they’ve been blessed by the Holy Sperm. In other words, sex is about male dominance.
And we should notice that, as Kathryn tells us,
The [Torodes'] book is about much more than the contraception question though. Bethany makes a beautiful argument in favor of stay-at-home motherhood, and other choices the Torodes believe are keys to successful matrimony.
Now, this is a complicated subject, and it's entirely possible that the 21-year-old Bethany Torode, who already had given her husband one young son, has been deeply fulfilled - or at least reasonably ok - with this life choice. Hard not to notice, though, that this ideology works out - the way our society is structured - so as to help keep women at home, out of the working world, the professions, etc.

If this all sounds a little too religious, though, Kathryn gives us secular proof
"that the crass commercialization and distribution of birth control is demeaning to women, degrading of human sexuality and adverse to human health and happiness" is obvious. Evidence will be at many a bar, in many a pint of Ben & Jerry's, etc. this evening.
Because nothing like that ever happened before the Pill. And these ladies really better watch out, because eating pints of ice cream just has to produce, as Keroack tells us,
an elevated level of endorphins which in turn lowers the level of oxytocin. Therefore, relationship failure leads to pain which leads to elevated endorphins which leads to lower oxytocin, the result of which is a lower ability to bond. Many in this increased state of emotional pain and lower oxytocin seek sex as a substitute for love, which inevitably leads to another failed relationship, and so on, the cycle continues.
But that's what you get when you shack up with Ben and Jerry.

I really wanted to actually analyze these ideas, and argue for why they're so . . . hateful, but that's just not going to happen right now, so here, read some more Amanda
So there you have it–anti-choicers are anti-sex all right, but they’re also anti-marriage, anti-child and anti-woman in real life terms, not in airy, abstract religious horseshit terms. They want sex to be a point of tension, not joy, in couples’ lives. They want children to be so numerous they can’t be cared for properly. And they want women to be resigned to a choice between being treated like whores or treated like incubators.
- including her a post on some of the Kathryn Kraziness (Hormonal contraception: The driving force behind the smashing success of middle-aged hippie-created ice cream, indeed!). I'm going to go listen to some Marvin Gaye, that'll make it all better . . .

posted by Dan S. on 9:25 PM | | link

what is a bog?
Definitions, definitions
1. ". . . one of North America's most distinctive kinds of wetlands . . . characterized by spongy peat deposits, acidic waters, and a floor covered by a thick carpet of spagnum moss." *
2. A relentless, hard-driving mix of political commentary, recipes, idle ramblings, and so on.

More about bogs here.

why "the bog"?
Something about the blog format made me think of spagnum moss slowly growing, forming layer after layer of peat deposits many feet thick, sometimes preserving (in Europe) ancient bodies . . . Also, it rhymes.

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Songs currently stuck in my head
despite all my best efforts

"My Happy Ending," by {yech} Avril Lavigne:
"Let's talk this over,
It's not like we're dead . . "

and "Laiska" by Varttina:
Laiska luotu laulmann
oikosormi soittamaan
yskin oita viettelen
unetonna laulelen

Toppling off the bedside book-pile:
Classroom Management for Middle-Grades Teachers , C.M. Charles & Marilyn G. Charles
Teaching U.S. History as Mystery, David Gerwin & Jack Zevin
Crossroads of Continents: Cultures of Siberia and Alaska, William W. Fitzhugh & Aron Crowell
Arctic Crossing: A Journey Through the Northwest Passage and Inuit Culture, Jonathan Waterman
Northern Tales: Stories from the Native People of the Arctic and Subarctic Regions, Howard Norman (ed.)
Life in the Cold, Peter J. Marchand
Wandering Through Winter, Edwin Way Teale
The Winter Vegetarian, Darra Goldstein

Teas of the week:
Tea of Good Tidings: Winter Fruit Blend,
The Republic of Tea
Russian Caravan,
Jacksons of Piccailly

on the web:
Land of links:
The American Prospect
Common Dreams
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The Progressive
Washington Monthly

Organic Consumers Association
Eat Wild (pasture-based farming)
NOFA: Northeast Organic Farming Association
Consumer Supported Agriculture
Edible Wild Kitchen


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Vassar blogs
And yes, we've been co-ed since '69...
E's Den
Useless! Worthless! Insipid!

Other blogs
Alas, A Blog
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Body and Soul
Daily Kos
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Feminist Blogs
Interesting Times
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Making Light
Mouse Words
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The Panda's Thumb
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The Sideshow
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Matthew Yglesias

old peat (archives):
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